1812 200th

The Java in a Sinking state, set fire to, & Blowing up. The Constitution at a distance… repairing her Rigging &c. in the Evening of 29th December, 1812.

Copy of aquatint by N. Pocock, engraved by R. & D. Havell after sketch by Lieutenant Buchanan, 1814.

200 years ago today, USS Constitution defeated the HMS Java after a 3 hour engagement, her second major victory of the war following the battle with HMS Guerriere in August earlier that year.


September 13th 1814: Defense of Fort McHenry

On this day in 1814, the United States army forces at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland successfully defended the city from the British during the War of 1812. British warships bombarded the fort for over 24 hours, but the American defense held fast and by the morning of September 14th the British were forced to retreat due to lack of ammunition.  The event, particularly the sight of an American flag being raised over the fort at dawn in celebration of victory, inspired Francis Scott Key to write a poem called ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’. Key was a witness to the battle because he was aboard a British ship having been trying to negotiate the release of an American prisoner. The poem was eventually set to the tune of a well-known 18th century British song and the anthem soon became a popular patriotic American song, and was commonly used by the armed forces. On March 3rd 1931, at the urging of many patriotic organisations, a congressional resolution was signed by President Hoover which affirmed ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ as America’s official national anthem.

200 years ago today


“…The enemy having concentered his forces may again attempt to drive me from my position by storm; whenever he does, I have no doubt my men will act with their usual firmness, & sustain a character, now become dear to them.”

Report of Andrew Jackson on the Battle of New Orleans. 9th Jan. 1815.

Letters Rec’d, J214, Box 97. Record Group 107: Records of the Office of the Secretary of War.

The Battle of New Orleans. January 1815. Copy of engraving by H. B. Hall after W. Momberger.

Two weeks after the Treaty of Ghent had technically ended the hostilities of the War of 1812, American forces under Andrew Jackson defeated a British invasion force at the Battle of New Orleans two hundred years ago on January 8, 1815.

Avast! ‘Tis Talk Like a Pirate Privateer Day! Behold: the “Saucy Jack

During the War of 1812 a number of American ship owners engaged in what amounted to legalized piracy, known as privateering.  It involved the “militia of the sea,” enterprising entrepreneurs and adventure seekers hoping to make their fortune on the open ocean at the expense of the enemy.

Records of their activity, including this commission, or letter of marque, from the aptly named Saucy Jack were uncovered by staff at the National Archives at Atlanta:

One amazing little boat, and perhaps the most prolific southern privateer in the war, bore the perfect name: Saucy Jack.  The Jack was the capturing vessel in over a dozen documented cases and by all accounts had an amazingly successful string of luck during the war.  Or was it perhaps by the skill of her captain and crew?  We might never know.  We know tantalizingly little about this boat, but through the records of the Federal Courts and U.S. Customs, some of her deeds as an American privateer vessel live on.

Saucy Jack Commission, Saucy Jack vs Schooner Weazel and Cargo, Mixed Case Files 1790-1860, box 23, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia (Savannah); Records of the District Courts of the United States, Record Group 21, National Archives at Atlanta.

More Privateering Plunder via The Text Message » The War of 1812: Privateers, Plunder, & Profiteering